The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.

  1. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    This is the alternate mono version. We have quite a few differences here, and the harpsichord makes an appearance also. Again that intro is the more ominous line

  2. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    Another brilliant song. Can someone please remind me - has the French Horn version been released?
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  3. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Big Black Smoke

    mono mix (2:32), recorded probably 21 Oct, 1966 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London

    She was sick and tired of country life.
    A little country home,
    A little country folk,
    Made her blood run cold.
    Now her mother pines her heart away,
    Looking for her child in the big black smoke,
    In the big black smoke.

    Frailest, purest girl the world has seen,
    According to her Ma, according to her Pa,
    And everybody said,
    That she knew no sin and did no wrong,
    Till she walked the streets of the big black smoke,
    Of the big black smoke.

    Well, she slept in cafés and coffee bars and bowling alleys,
    And every penny she had
    Was spent on purple hearts and cigarettes.

    She took all her pretty coloured clothes,
    And ran away from home
    And the boy next door,
    For a boy named Joe.
    And he took her money for the rent
    And tried to drag her down in the big black smoke,
    In the big black smoke.

    In the big black smoke.
    In the big black smoke.

    Written by: Ray Davies
    Published by: Davray Music/Carlin Music Corp.

    Here we have another b-side that is so much more than just a b-side to me.

    In some ways this feels like a precursor to The Pogues Old Main Drag. Telling the sad story of someone moving to the city, and how it pretty much destroys their life.

    I think the lyrics here are pretty self explanatory. We have a country girl who was seemingly a sweet girl, and then when she moved to the city, she was reduced to cinders by it.

    We open with the church bells.... wedding bells?. Then we move into this music that speaks volumes itself.
    The way the guitar follows that vocal melody is almost akin to a horror movie. This is like a macabre ballad. It incorporates some of the music hall ideas, as it moves through different textures.

    It is strange, but in both today's songs I can see the face of Dickens' Fagan leering at the characters, wondering how he can take advantage of them, and perhaps in this song Joe plays the part of Fagan.

    Again we have this scenario where the single is themed. Is this one of the overall darkest singles from a pop band of the era?

    The end of the song rolls into chaos and seems representative of the life given to a country girl running off to the city....

    Another great track..... and although I love the Face To Face album, it seems if the sequencing could be arranged correctly, these two song would lift it up to near G.O.A.T. sort of status....
    What an intense period of time in the Kinks catalog.

  4. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I honestly don't know mate.
    I am wondering about that version, and also the one they did with Talmy, before he went home.

    I'm sure if these version exist, one of our folks here will post them ... I couldn't find them
    CheshireCat likes this.
  5. Fred1

    Fred1 Forum Resident


    According to my present knowledge – no! The French horn arrangement played by musician Albert Hall was replaced with a trombone to achieve the somber sound that Ray Davies wanted. According to him the trombone fitted beautifully.
  6. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Dead End Street got as few single covers also

  7. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "Dead End Street"
    Where to start with this? There is no aspect of this track that is not outstanding. The trombone in the intro which sets the scene of a bleak cobbled street of terraced houses in a northern town. The dual bass guitar attack. The lyrics which not only paint a vivid picture, they trip off Ray's tongue with perfect scansion and structure. The build-up to the chorus. The backing vocals in the chorus. The drumming in the chorus. The irregularly descending chord sequences in the chorus. The reprise of the intro as the bridge, and then during the outro the trumpet becoming the defiant voice of the people who are determined not to be crushed. But there's no need to break it all down, as you take all of this in as you listen to it as a whole. It's a brilliant, revolutionary single in the middle of a run of brilliant, revolutionary singles.

    "Big Black Smoke"
    And then we have this, which is not only A-side worthy, it would be a perfect fit thematically for VGPS, as the tale of a young girl who left the village green for the not-so-bright lights. The use of descending chord sequences also ties it in perfectly with the A-side. Ray again paints the picture, this time leaving the rest of the story to our imagination. Dave yelling "oyez" over the outro is another highlight.

    Both sides are quality productions (no doubt more down to Ray's direction than Shel) beautifully performed. As 7" singles go, this has to be up there with the very best.
  8. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

  9. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Marvelous opening posts, @mark winstanley and @ARL !
    Music-hall whimsy meets punk aggressiveness… Dead End Street may very well be the Kinks song that gets the best balance ever between the two most famous sides of the band, melodic artistry on one hand, sheer rock power on the other. Here, you get the best of both worlds. Add to it the political message, the stupendous performance by all involved (special mention to Ray’s vocals and Mick’s thundering drums part) and you have an all-time klassik. The only reason why this masterpiece is not even better than Sunny Afternoon is because Sunny Afternoon is just impossible to beat, if only because of its unreachable iconic status and historical importance. Let’s settle and say as a song, Dead End Street is every bit its equal, then !
    I count five different major parts : the plaintive “There's a Crack up in the Ceiling”, the pub singalong “What are we living for”, the "We Are Strictly second Class" link, then the “DEAD END / Why We Should be on Dead End Street” call and response bit and the “Dead End Street, yeah” chant, before getting back to the beginning. And each one of them is a little masterpiece in its own right ! My favorite moments : the trombone at the beginning, that works like an ominous wake up signal and a call to arms (that would explain the London Calling quotation), the comical music-hall coda with horns and piano (the Kinks invent Muswell Hillbillies right there !) and the almighty “peo-ple-are-dy-ing-in-a-dead-end-street” machine gun phrasing, giving the listener that he’s not only singing about a social disaster, but about a social massacre. What a song !
  10. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    Big Black Smoke - as @ARL says, this b-side was worthy of being an a-side. One of many instances in The Kinks' 60s catalogue.
  11. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    I read somewhere that “Big Smoke” is the nickname of London. The Kinks willingly use the same kind of chromatic descent than on Sunny Afternoon as a reference point, but to create a whole different sensation, with thunderous noise everywhere, implying people, traffic and chaos. This is not a “lazy” dreamy tune but a tensed song, full of stress, gloom and doom, just as the lyrics imply. The bridge is astonishing, with that wonderful unexpected sustained note on “every penny she haaaaaaa-a-a-a-ad”, before the abrupt cynical drug and cigarettes reference brings us back to the verse. Ray’s vocals are exceptionally versatile, Pete Quaife’s bass is outstanding (in many ways, he owns this single!), the lead rhythm guitar, perfect, the one high harmony note on “smoke” is original, effective, catchy and hooky as hell, and the overall sound is a monster. As a counterpart to Sunny Afternoon, this song is devastating. As a Face to Face “sound effects and character studies” tune, it would’ve worked wonders. As a soundtrack song to many a British film in the 60’s, it would be unforgettable. And as a flip side and thematic companion piece to Dead End Street, it’s brilliant. But frankly, you name it, in whatever context you’d choose to present it, it would be sensational.
  12. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    It’s actually “caffs” not “cafés”. This was common slang at the time and , unlike cafés, scans properly.
  13. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    The video is really something special. The tightrope balance between working class kitchen sink authenticity and proto-goth quirky menace that the group exude effortlessly here is something that later groups have spent entire careers self consciously chasing with much lesser results. At this point in time The Kinks just were this cool.

    One big mystery about the single is who plays bass on it? Obviously Quaife was back in time for the video to be filmed, but both he and John Dalton have recalled playing on it. In their respective autobios, Ray remembers Dalton being on it, and Dave remembers Quaife! The fact that it was recorded at least a few times also throws confusion into the mix, and likely accounts for differing memories.

    Hinman concludes that it's Dalton in his book, but only he admits as a best guess. I kind of think the opposite: Dalton when asked about the song said it was recorded 'pretty much right away' after he joined the group, which would mean summer 1966. Thus my thinking is that Dalton appeared on an earlier recording and Quaife the final one. Who really knows though! Just as soon as we can say that Mick is on drums on pretty much everything, the bass credit comes into question!
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2021
  14. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Weird thing about 'Dead End Street': The Kinks didn't seem to play it much (if at all!) live in the 60s: I've never been able to find any record of them in the known set lists, and note it isn't included on 'Live At Kelvin Hall' when it would have been their most recent hit and you'd think therefore a cert for inclusion. The earliest setlist appearance I can find in Hinman's book is from 1972, when I presume the brass section they had by then would have helped bring the trombone part over (maybe that's why they didn't play it before?)

    Later on in the 80s and 90s, post The Clash's tip of the hat to this song on the famed title track of their 3rd album, The Kinks retro-arranged 'Dead End Street' to sound more like 'London Calling' live, as showcased on the 1994 'To The Bone' version:

  15. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    This is a very strong double-header!

    Dead End Street
    This is one of my favourite Kinks songs for both its music and lyrics. I first heard it on the Golden Hour of the Kinks compilation, where it stood out even among their 60s hits. I think this might be the first time Ray portrays working class struggle in song. And unlike Shangri-La in a year or so, this isn’t the perspective of one person: ‘people are dying’ shows this is more social exposé than just a story. As others have pointed out, the music for this song is just perfect. They definitely settled on the best take.
    Big Black Smoke
    It is hard to believe this was just a B-side! I first heard this on Kink Kronikles (fabulous double album compilation). It’s a straightforward cautionary tale about a good country girl who lost her innocence and money when she went to the city with a bad man. Again the music is perfect for the song. Ray returns to this city vs country divide in future albums.
  16. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Of course, Talmy figured out what happened when he was presented with the bill from the trombone player!
  17. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    New Mexico
    Dead End Street
    Topically hard to take, but so well conceived and so well delivered that you just have to pay attention. Very impressive indeed.

    Dead End Street
    The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence... especially if that other side is in the city where nothing is green to begin with. Really devastating songs on both sides of this one, a pretty aggressive move when you think about it.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2021
  18. Steve E.

    Steve E. Doc Wurly and Chief Lathe Troll

    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    The two alts that Mark posted of "Dead End Street" are the same version -- it's just that the first of those is from a trashed acetate. And it sure sounds to me like a French horn on it. Isn't that the Shel Talmy version? If so, thank goodness Ray redid it. It has little of the charm or gravitas of the final version.

    "Dead End Street" sounded muffled and awful for decades on its rereleases. Thanks to Andrew Sandoval for finally finding a great tape of it!
  19. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    New Mexico
    Of course we had our share of "big black smoke" in the US, but I always got the impression that the industrialized areas in the UK were just a little darker. Probably not, but it seems that's how they were presented. Maybe it's because they're typically a little more dense; crammed into a more compact, and therefore more smothering area. Maybe it's exacerbated by the UK's stronger ties to a class society with less opportunity for mobility. In any case, there was plenty of singing about the wretchedness of urban industrialism.

    Here's an excellent example from about the same time. "Cities" is a pre-Days of Future Passed, Justin Hayward cut that also effectively paints a rather grey, hopeless picture of urban blight, although in a general sense rather than via a story or character sketch.

    It was recorded before DOFP but first released as the b side to Nights in White Satin in '67.

  20. Steve E.

    Steve E. Doc Wurly and Chief Lathe Troll

    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    Pre-coffee thought.... Is Big Big Smoke's descending chromatic melody inspired by the bass hook of (Jan 1966's) "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"? (Listen at intro and 0:42.)

  21. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Yes! I thought the same thing.
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  22. Steve E.

    Steve E. Doc Wurly and Chief Lathe Troll

    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    You could make a little mini-musical out of a few of these similarly-themed Kinks songs from this time:
    *Rosemary Rose (infantalized girl sneaks cigarettes)
    *Rosy Won't You Please Come Home (leaves)
    *Big Black Smoke (gets dragged down)
    *Little Miss Queen of Darkness (discarded, broken hearted)
    *Polly (comes home, reforms)
    The names aren't the same, but there is a progression, there.

    I love the chaos at the end of Big Black Smoke. The sound of that record is fantastic. Lo fi, compressed, thick, full of menace, a little crazy, a little terrifying. Great vocals... It feels like they are embodying cruel, mocking spirits in the descending lines, as the song progresses, countered by a more compassionate voice in the followup. I appreciate that the line says "_tried_ to drag her down.". There is some hope that she might get out.

    A couple months back, I posted about Big Black Smoke on the Facebook Kinks page that's moderated by Christian Davies (Dave Davies son). Great group! I recommend it.

    I was asking about the end. I'd never heard of the expression "Oyez". Well, I got great feedback, and now I know.

    Interesting to know the old role of a town crier in England:

    "‘Oyez’ (pronounced ‘oh yay’) comes from the French ouïr (‘to listen’) and means “Hear ye”. The town crier would begin his cry with these words, accompanied by the ringing of a large hand bell to attract attention. It was the job of the crier or bellman to inform the townspeople of the latest news, proclamations, bylaws and any other important information, as at this time most folk were illiterate and could not read.

    The cry would then end with the words, ‘God save the King’ or ‘God save the Queen’."

    “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!”

    So, when does this song take place?

    Researching the nickname of London as "The Big Smoke" is a rabbit hole:

    Most Googled: why is London called the ‘Big Smoke’?

    Incredible photos of the Deadly Smog of 1952:

    In 1952 London, 12,000 people died from smog — here's why that matters now

    60 years since the great smog of London - in pictures
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2021

    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Salem, MA
    Dead End Street/Big Black Smoke is definitely one of the great Kinks singles. Considering the subject matter, it was at odds w/the coming psychedelic era, with the release of "Strawberry Fields Forever" several months later. It was also released around the time of a famous disaster in Wales when a coal tip collapsed upon a school, killing many children.

    Also, I don't know how this Is going to be received, but I actually liked Oasis' crib of both the song & video:

  24. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    I think the Moodys were a working class band from the (industrial) midlands. Down on success they nearly broke up around that time. What a contrast in A and B-sides there though. The ‘cities’ lyrics are almost child-like, whereas Nights in White Satin is almost God-like.
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  25. Orino

    Orino Forum Resident

    Beautifully paired, two outstanding Kinks songs sharing a theme of sorts. Quite probably the most evocative of what I think of as Ray's Kitchen Sink songs. I can see that crack in the ceiling, and the bowling allies. Maybe that comes from being a big fan of 50s/60s British cinema.. maybe it comes from the quality of Ray's spare prose.

    It's been said you could reconstruct 1920s Dublin from James Joyce.. I'd say you could make a decent job of certain corners of London, England, with The Kinks. The fear, struggle and degradation of being poor or displaced in the big city is quite palpable. As the katalogue expands, it's easy to get too wrapped up in later supposed 60s fripperies of velvet jackets and hipsters, or nostalgia for warm beer and cricket. But there is a similarly, deeply English melancholy embedded in all this, as we know.. and we'll come to it soon enough.

    Musically this is a contender for a career best. Dead End Street morphs from working class lament to pub singalong into that fantastic outro.. makes me think of the Pete Townshend quote about rock music allowing you to dance all over your troubles. Big Black Smoke similarly seems to end with a curious optimism. There's always hope.

    Breathtaking stuff this. And loving all the Kinks konversation here, btw. :)

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